Vietnam Veteran Wants to Visit to Memorial Before He Dies
Mar. 29, 1996
WASHINGTON (AP) _ With a bag full of medicine, two cameras and her husband behind the wheel of a borrowed van, Sheila Meyer prepared Friday to make a final trip with her dying brother. Destination: Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Seeing the wall is the last wish of Robert Plato, an Army sergeant who did three tours of duty in Vietnam. Plato now is 50 years old and dying of cancer that has spread to his back, lungs, stomach, liver and pancreas.
``He's in a lot of pain,'' his sister said from her home in Cable, Ohio. ``He's down to 114 pounds.
``It's so hard. I remember when I was a little girl _ we're 10 years apart _ and he was going off to Vietnam and people would ask me what my brother was like and I'd say `He's 10 feet tall' and he was, to me.
``He's always been my hero.''
In the 10 months since Plato became ill, Mrs. Meyer has made her brother's health and comfort a 24-hour priority: tracking his narcotic patches and making sure medications are administered on time; keeping his skin rubbed down with creams; rubbing his back; sleeping on the hospice floor of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dayton.
And it was Mrs. Meyer who took her family's private struggles public, appealing to a local television station for help when doctors said Plato probably would not live long enough to visit the wall with other local vets in late April.
Getting her brother to agree to the TV appeal was the hard part, she said.
``He didn't want that publicity,'' Mrs. Meyer said. ``We told him `You're not doing it for you, you're doing it for all the Vietnam veterans.'
``Every Vietnam veteran that wants to see the wall should have that opportunity.''
Afterward, that and more publicity generated the loan of a van from Deacon Jim Williams of the Grace Baptist Church in Urbana, Ohio, and donations from a veteran's group to help pay for gasoline and meals along the way.
With the help of the hospital, arrangements were made for Plato and the Meyers to stay at Andrews Air Force Base Saturday. They planned to make the 10-hour trip overnight so that Plato could sleep through as much of the highway discomfort as possible.
``It's chaotic,'' she said during a break from her travel preparations. ``We know that he could pass on the trip.''
``We're going to say our prayers before we leave and all the way there.''